Canadian ‘Art of Imagination’ society launched

By Bhat Boy

Some call it whimsy, some say it is surreal; others think that we are just crazy. Think what you like, artists are people too, and sometimes we need other artists that are crazy the same way we are, except we like to call it madness. That is why Russell Paquette, Marina Malvada, Jean Pronovost and I are founding the Canadian Society for Art of Imagination, for artists whose work expresses imagination and spiritualism beyond realism and style.

Ottawa artist Russell Paquette is classically surreal. In Search of the Yellow Brick Road, 24 x 20, acrylic on board

Ottawa artist Russell Paquette is classically surreal. In Search of the Yellow Brick Road, 24 x 20, acrylic on board

The Canadian Society for Art of Imagination is launching its first show this May in Toronto at the Moniker Gallery on Richmond Street. Entitled Art for Peace, the show will continue on to Ottawa in September, where it will be exhibited at Orange Gallery.

The purpose of the society is to help artists who feel they are working in isolation to find a way to get together. Like anyone else seeking understanding from their peers, artists want to be in the company of other artists to share ideas. Our society is based on the idea of imaginative and spiritual art that goes beyond traditional representationalism. Some of the works are surreal, like my own fish paintings; another Ottawa artist, Tick Tock Tom, makes robot sculptures out of used computers and appliances. In addition to 40 Canadian artists, the upcoming show will include artists from Europe and the United States.

Bhat Boy’s painting is both whimsical and imaginative. Ichthyious Toronto, 36 x 48, acrylic on panel

Bhat Boy’s painting is both whimsical and imaginative. Ichthyious Toronto, 36 x 48, acrylic on panel

The first Society for the Art of Imagination was founded by Brigid Marlin in England in 1961. She had been the student of first-generation concentration-camp survivors, Ernst Fuches and Hans Ruedi Giger, who shared their dark experiences through the art that they created. I was drawn to Marlin’s wild and colourful cast of characters after being introduced by her brother, Randal Marlin, in 1992. In a matter of months I was being whipped around to printmaking workshops at Childwick, Stanley Kubrick’s estate, rooming at Shantock Hall, the home of Countess Nicole Franklin, and having lunch with vampires in the Welsh countryside (although I was actually staying the night at Lady Godiva’s former estate). This mad circle of artists, once young in the ’60s, were mostly in their 60s by then. There was dear Diana, who used to wear a special flasher dress that she would whip open at events to reveal her intricately sewn nude outfit, and a devilishly naughty dwarf named Richard.

There is now an American Society for Art of Imagination, an African Imagination Society, and the International Society for Fantastic Art based in Japan. We, the Canadian society, have been given start-up funds from the American society to pay for things like gallery fees, art transportation and other event costs. The aim is to bring artists together, to create opportunities for Canadians to see works by artists like Hans Ruedi Giger, and to foster networks so that Canadian artists can show their works through other Art of Imagination exhibits in other countries.

Marina Malvada’s skulls are a favourite Oscar gift in Hollywood. This one is made of bone chocolate, a mix of 
white, milk and dark chocolates.

Marina Malvada’s skulls are a favourite Oscar gift in Hollywood. This one is made of bone chocolate, a mix of 
white, milk and dark chocolates.

The Art for Peace exhibition in Toronto is being curated by Marina Malvada. As well as being an accomplished painter, she has been featured in Vogue for her $400 chocolate skulls that she ships around the globe, and that are known to be a favoured snack of artist Damian Hirst. (http://www.chocolateskulls.com/).

In Ottawa this September, there will be three concurrent Imaginationist exhibitions, one at the Glebe Community Centre Gallery, one at Roast ’n Brew at Bank and Fifth, and one at Orange Gallery, where I will show never-before-seen paintings that I completed in September 2001.

Brigid Marlin is still sharp as a whip and mad as a March hare, but they no longer ask her for ID at the liquor store. A new generation of artists has to pick up where her generation has left off, which is exactly the mission of the Canadian Society for Art of Imagination. In 2015 and 2016 we hope to mount a core exhibition mixed with local Imaginationist artists’ work, for a show travelling to Montreal, Nova Scotia and British Columbia, before eventually moving to Seattle. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Being mad has its advantages since you don’t let the ordinary things get in your way. But who’s to say whether we are really mad, or just crazy?

Long-time Glebe resident and community art animator, Bhat Boy is ever generating and overcoming new art challenges.

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